The Intifada of the Fire?

Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party. (Photo: File)

By Jeremy Salt

Naftali Bennett, of the fascist Jewish Home Party, says this week’s fires in occupied Palestine, resulting in tens of thousands of people having to leave their homes (yes, a faint echo of 1948 except these temporary refugees can return), were probably lit by ‘someone who this land doesn’t belong to.’   Well, thanks Naftali, for pointing out that if the fires were deliberately lit, the arsonists must have been Zionist settler colonists like yourself, to whom the land definitely does not belong to.  Like it or not, and deny it for as long as you like, but with the exception of a few small slivers, it belongs to the Palestinians, ‘the Arabs’ as you prefer to call them.  The passage of time does not efface theft.  Your reversal of theft into ownership continues the sleight-of-hand that has been the core of Zionist practice all along.

Of course this latest representative of the settler class that has stolen the land and the inherent rights of people in many lands over many centuries, does not mean it was Zionists who set fire to the land.  It was ‘the Arabs.’  Title deeds and long inheritance mean nothing measured against the twin abstracts of Zionism, ‘ownership’ and ‘return’ by a people who never owned the land and have had no living connection with it. By calling them ‘the Arabs’ the Palestinians are dispossessed of their identity even in language.  For Bennett and Zionists generally they are just ‘the Arabs’ or arabush, words spoken with the same contemptuous inflection in the voice heard when white South Africans were talking about blacks, the kaffirs and the macacas.

Netanyahu has threatened the arsonists, if that is what they are, with the most severe penalties.  Several people have been arrested and no doubt more will follow; it is pointless to say that the courts will decide whether they were guilty because Israeli courts don’t work like that where ‘the Arabs’ are concerned. The predisposition is always to believe the policeman or the soldier where the Palestinians are concerned, all prevailing evidence to the contrary. The injustice system has its role to play in the process of wiping the Palestinian presence out of history.

Naftali Bennett is a thief and usurper and unless or until he admits the rights of the Palestinians and begins the process of restoring these rights to them, and they grant him the right to stay in their land in return, that is what he will always remain.  Of course, he is never going to take such measures.  Why should he? Who is so absurd to even talk about it?   He would snigger at the thought because he has the power to do what he wants and ‘the Arabs’ don’t, but the ‘might is right’ argument is a two-edged sword that has the nasty habit of turning over and cutting down those who wield it.   Don’t expect much sympathy if that day comes, Naftali.

Far from acknowledging Palestinian rights Bennett is out to destroy even those marginal rights they still have. He has vowed that he will not concede one inch of land to the Palestinians for statehood and is seeking the annexation of area C of the West Bank, which is totally under Israeli control, indicating that the Palestinians living there would have to be moved out into the urban ghettoes allowed for them beyond the pale of Zionist settlement (what tricks history plays).

Bennett wants to swamp the Palestinians of the West Bank with one million settlers, to shrink them into a tiny ethnic minority that might even have its uses, such as smiling and waving as Japanese tourists pass by in their buses.  Like Weizmann, who was delighted in 1948 at the sight of vast stretches of land falling into Jewish hands, without expressing one word of remorse, regret or shame expulsion of the Palestinians who owned it, what Bennett wants to see in area C is nothing but Jewish settlers, Jewish homes, Jewish streets, Jewish highways, Jewish traffic lights, Jewish road signs, Jewish tomatoes, Jewish flowers and Jewish park benches with only Jews sitting on them.

Netanyahu used the phrase terrorist arsonists. Well, coming from a terrorist of distinction, that’s a bit rich.  Without going too far over old ground, Zionist began as a terrorist ideology, behind the sanctimonious lies told by Weizmann and the rest of the team. The intention from the start was to drive the Palestinians off their land, and this could only be done by terrorizing them.   Dispossession was implicit if rarely stated openly and the only way the word could be moved to the deed was through terror in the form of a ‘war of independence’, in fact a war of conquest by a settler minority.   There was never going to be a peaceful settlement of the ‘conflict’ in Palestine because without war a ‘Jewish state’ could never have been established.  Without war the land could not have been emptied.  The Palestinians were not going to give it up voluntarily.  Without war the Zionists could not have seized 20 per cent more of Palestine than they were allocated in the partition resolution.  It was not war that threatened them but peace.

Having going the terror ball rolling the Zionists kept rolling it.  There was no other way of remaining in possession of stolen goods.  Any attempt to retrieve them by the owners or those who supported them had to be met with the utmost violence. Any Palestinian or Arab figure who stood in their way had to be destroyed.   Any threat to the borders that even now they have not declared had to be met with tanks, planes, massacre and assassination.   So if lighting a fire is terrorism, what does all this add up to?

The catalogue of Zionist murder and mayhem began in the 1930s with the gangs that infiltrated Lebanon and murdered villagers or rolled barrel bombs into crowded Palestinian markets with the objective of killing as many people as possible and terrifying the rest, a process which has continued in various forms down to the present day. Either kill the Arabs or teach them a lesson they will never forget is the philosophy that has guided the actions of the Zionist state for the past seven decades.  The bombing of schools and factories in Egypt, the massacre of villagers in Jordan, the massacres in Lebanon over decades, the massacres in Gaza – is this not terrorism on a grand scale, eclipsing anything committed by the Islamic State?  The killing, the assassinations, the massacres, the destruction of apartment blocks and refugee camps are all designed to ram home the lesson but as we see from continuing acts of resistance, the Palestinians are bad learners. You’ll just have to try harder, Naftali, and no doubt you will.

Disarmed, corralled, caged and fenced in behind wire, walls and checkpoints, deprived of all other weapons to defend themselves with, the Palestinians have been reduced to using knives, scissors and even the cars they drive as weapons against occupation.  Now, according to what the Zionist regime is claiming, ‘the Arabs’ have turned to boxes of matches or cigarette lighters. Who knows how all this will end? Perhaps ‘the Arabs’ will be told to hand in all knives, scissors, matches and cigarette lighters and replace kitchen ovens with self-starting stoves.

There have been many intifadas – ‘shakings’ – since the 1930s, not counting the uprisings of the 1920s, the ‘riots’ deliberately provoked by Zionist ‘extremists.’ There was the general strike and uprising of 1936, the first ground-up intifada.  There were the intifadas of the 1980s and of 2000, the intifada of the stones, the Al Aqsa intifada after the violation of the Haram al Sharif by Ariel Sharon, and then the intifada of the knives. Now, if what the Zionist overlords are saying is correct, we might be seeing the first flames of the intifada of fire, intifada al nar, fought by anyone able to walk into a forest or nature reserve with a box of matches or cigarette lighter in his or her pocket.  Ultimately, if it is one and it continues, the only way to stop it will be to ban all ‘Arabs’ or anyone who looks like them  (Eritreans, South Americans, Maltese etc.) from all forests, nature reserves and parkland within Israel im/proper and the further territories seized in 1967.

Perhaps these forests have to be fenced off with razor wire, with gates allowing entry only to those with permits.  Bear in mind that these forests are not neutral. They were planted on Palestinian land and in many cases over the ruins of Palestinian villages to hide the evidence of the crimes that had been committed and to reconfigure the landscape so Palestine no longer looks like Palestine.    The pine trees of these forests were as alien to Palestine as the settlers themselves.  They are political trees, settler trees, alien pines planted while the native olive trees are cut down and while these trees can live on the land, the Palestinians and their trees can’t.  The state expresses fury at the violent death of these trees by fire while justifying the death of Palestinians murdered by soldiers and settlers rarely punished for their crimes.

Over more than seven decades of occupation the Palestinians have had their lives taken from them. They have had their homes taken from them.  They have had the possessions in these homes taken from them, down to the furniture, the carpets, the books and their children’s toys.   They have had their right to be buried in the land of their ancestors taken from them.  They have had their history and culture taken from them. They have had their mosques taken from them.  They have had their orchards and gardens taken from them.  They have had their olive trees taken from them.  They have had their wheat fields and orange groves taken from them.  They have had their rivers, streams and seas taken from them.  They have had their collective rights taken from them. They have had the public buildings, roads and bridges built by their forefathers taken from them. They have had their rights to enter the Haram al Sharif taken from them and in Jerusalem they seem about to have their call to prayer taken from them.  They have had their weapons taken from them.  They have had almost everything taken from them and if anything is certain it is that in years to come more will be taken from what little remains.  They have been left with nothing to defend themselves but knives, scissors and, if the accusations of their oppressors are true, boxes of matches or cigarette lighters.

But please be objective about this.  Don’t fall into terminological confusion. Make sure you get things straight.  The terrorist is never the pilot firing missiles into a city crammed with refugees.  The terrorist is never the soldier shooting a child in the head or the sailors firing a shell into children playing on the beach. The terrorist is never the tank commander firing directly at an apartment block. The terrorist is never the man in uniform, the soldier, the policeman, the border policeman.  The terrorist is never the settler swaggering through a Palestinian town with a machine-gun over his shoulder.  The terrorist is never the politician who orders all of this.  The terrorist is you, the Palestinian wretched of the earth, impoverished, bombarded, murdered, massacred, bullied, intimidated, threatened, driven off your land, locked up behind a fence or a wall, facing a military armed with tanks, planes, missiles, armoured bulldozers and even nuclear weapons, and striking back with weapons that outrage the enemy:  a stone, a knife, a pair of scissors, a cigarette lighter and now (they say) a box of matches.

– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to

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